And so now we must forward.  Forward in time to tell the story.  In order to tell what happened before.  To understand it better.  To come to some semblance of truth.  In that never-ending arc of perspective.  We must go forward to 1985.  To what happened then—three years before David’s death.  To what happened to Cleota—his mother.  To what happened to her after a long life, perhaps a life lived too long.  Because by then, by 1985, she was too old to take care of herself.  Too old for her children even to take care of her.  And she had to go into assisted living—a nursing home.

            She was there.  She was present in 1938, in Soulard during Mardi Gras, for that Fat Tuesday performance for which David was paid for, not in beads but in twenty-seven dollars cash—split unevenly with the rest of his band.  A drummer and man on harmonica, a piano player.  The early players of his first performances—men he would play with again after the war…  David kept five dollars from that first performance.  And he gave it to his mother.  Something she always remembers.  When she thinks of Duke Threnody, after his passing.  Something she remembers in other memories, like giving beads to that boy in the Mardi Gras celebration she witnesses with her grandchildren, in the late seventies—spoken of earlier…  $27…  And the tips went for beer afterwards.

            She was there, and so he was there.  David Threnody was with his mother in her last days.  In the nursing home that later I visited to speak with Dewey, his older brother.  A care center on Bond Avenue, in an old part of East St. Louis.  Amongst stripped buildings and abandoned lots.  Of once neighborhoods David walked with his mother on trips to get milk and Duke’s newspaper.  Not far from that first bar he passed, where he saw his first musician.  And smelled what was on him.

            Sometimes you live too long.  You live too long for your life.  And the light fades.  And you begin to sense death in life.  Each day beating it into you with dank submission.  You begin to feel the gods no longer smiling on you.  And your quiet hours leave you wondering if there is no God.  You are left with only memories.  To play before your mind in a bad setting for them.  In the stale urine smell of a nursing home, mixed with covering bleach.  Dining rooms with spilled food and wheel chairs to the table.  Old women screaming as CNA’s force spoons in their mouths.  Spoons of cold food, food that dribbles out of the side of their mouths—mixed mush easier to digest because they have no more teeth.  The hallways outside, soft light and darkened corners, where old men sit in their dirty diapers.  Waiting for someone to change them.  Waiting with bruises on their arms from the Plavix and Coumadin that causes their blood to no longer clot.  Unshaven, white and gray hair tousled, matted and greasy—the dandruff apparent.  Their eyes that see no one.  No one coming to the alarmed doors with keypads to visit them.  The hallways lined with them—too many of them—skinny old men and sagging old women—in wheel chairs they can’t get out of the way.  Moans heard.  Screams and indecipherable language.  And sometimes, sometimes you hear the word:  Help!

            Cleota in her nineties now.  And it happened slowly.  Cruelly slow.  First she was still able to walk and cook for herself.  Then accidental falls and bad hips.  Toaster ovens turned on forgotten.  Then trouble getting out of bed.   Accidents in the night.  The toilet seat too low.  Getting in and out of chairs a long and harried task.  Then finally unable to walk at all.  State-issued diapers like gunny sacks rubbing her skin raw.  Her nakedness no longer private as nurses put on her clothes—outdated clothes from the sixties when she still worried if she was in fashion.  Pink polyester pants and floral-patterned blouses.  The buttons now obstinate to her shaking fingers.  Her personal items inventoried.  Stolen.  Nothing for herself anymore but what had her name stenciled on it…  This how David visits her.  What he sees and hears as he comes through the door.  Indecipherable words.   And words said over and over.

            “Mother…”

            All he can say.  The only thing that can come out as she looks up at him through bifocals.  Her neck disappeared in the drooping, hunched shoulders.  Her wheel chair locked and pushed against the wall.  She just another old face lined up with the others…

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